The Shoe Thief

Taiwanese people have an interesting habit of not caring about the environment that surrounds their homes. As long as the inside of their homes are clean, it won’t matter if their neighborhood is filled with the droppings of stray dogs with dermatological diseases, that the alleys between apartment blocks are filled with piles of rotting trash, or if a fetid stream full of more trash and giardia runs past the front door. One way people keep their houses so clean is by having a no-shoes policy. Most Taiwanese people I know would likely not bat an eye if you litter, but failure to take your shoes off before entering someone’s living room will earn you a major faux pas dunce cap. Since most people in Taiwan live in apartments where there is little room to keep your shoe collection, shoes tend to be kept outside in the hallways by the front door. This practice, while useful in keeping your apartment dirt-free, also has created another class of citizens in Taiwan: the shoe thieves.

Apparently, shoe thieves often strike around Chinese New Year, when tradition is to buy a new pair of shoes. Just before Chinese New Year recently, our secured apartment building in Taipei was hit by a string of shoe thieves. First they came and took the obvious new shoes, the ones that say Jimmy Choo and are still in original boxes with receipts and have not yet been infused with the smell of feet. Then a few days later they struck again. This time taking the shoes that say Adidas and have a few scruff marks. In all, we lost about 5-6 pairs of shoes, the worst casualty in our building. When I mentioned our recent plight to Taiwanese friends, each shared similar stories of beloved new shoes stolen from the hallways outside their apartment.

We called the police to report our loss and asked to view the security camera tape for suspicious people carrying large bags full of shoes. The police who came to take our statements were very nonchalant. Instead they advised us to check out the flea market on Dingzhou Street. “You might see your shoes there!” Officer Wu said indifferently. Obviously they see this all too often. What was suspicious was that the security camera outside the apartment building just happened to have been turned off on the day of the first shoe thief strike, and never got turned back on. “It might have been an inside job!” I told the officers, trying my best Sherlock Holmes impression. Officer Wu was not impressed with my deductive reasoning, and simply informed us that it wasn’t likely that we’d ever see our stolen shoes again.

Even though the Taiwan police force have become complacent about shoe thieves, I have not. To fight back, I have decided to place a curse on all the shoe thieves in Taiwan, particularly the ones who hit Hsi-Kun No. 2 Road in Banqiao on February 4 2007. May the Year of the Golden Pig bring you bunions the size of Sun Moon Lake. May your shoes always find their way into large steaming piles of dog poo scattered across the streets of Taiwan. And may you be blessed with toe jam that smells like ten thousand stinky tofu stalls on a humid summer day in Taipei.

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